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Two protesters arrested as anti-monarchy chorus grows louder in UK

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
This picture shows a young woman being arrested in the Scottish capital Edinburgh for holding a sign reading “f*** imperialism, abolish monarchy” during an accession event in the Scottish capital Edinburgh on September 11, 2022.

Two anti-monarchy protesters who expressed resentment over the proclamation of King Charles III as Queen Elizabeth II’s successor to the throne have been arrested.

A prominent activist was arrested on his way home in Oxford on Sunday for shouting “Who elected him?” immediately after the proclamation was read out at a ceremony in the city marking the new monarch’s accession.

Symon Hill told reporters that he was asked to “shut up” by those attending the event when he shouted the words, to which he said, “A head of state has been imposed on us without our consent.”

He was then bundled in a police van, despite some people protesting and defending his fundamental right to free speech, according to reports.

The police reportedly told him that he had been detained under the new police and crime legislation.

Later, he was “de-arrested” and told he would be contacted for an interview at a later date with a lawyer present.

Hill accused police of abusing their powers, claiming the new police and crime law had created a draconian atmosphere that has “significantly reduced free expression and harmed democracy”.

“This is a massive misuse of police power,” he said. “The fact that at first they didn’t know why they’d arrested me was worrying."

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone arrested on such threadbare grounds, let alone experienced it myself,” Hill was quoted as saying, adding that he had previously been arrested for participation in non-violent protest against the arms trade.

“I didn’t in any meaningful sense disrupt the ceremony; I just called out something that a few people near me would have heard, and then they carried on with the ceremony, and they [the police] collared me,” he said. “I find it really alarming that you can be arrested for expressing an opinion in public. I am feeling quite shaken.”

Republic, a political movement in the UK that seeks to replace the United Kingdom's monarchy with a republic, called the incident “outrageous” after Hill tweeted about it.

In a separate incident, a 22-year-old woman was arrested in the Scottish capital Edinburgh for demanding the abolition of the monarchy shortly before the reading of the proclamation.

The incident reportedly took place outside St Giles’ Cathedral, where the deceased Queen’s coffin is due to lie on Monday.

A witness said somebody shouted “Republic now” during the proclamation. Another man shouted “Let her go, it’s free speech.” 

Helen Smith, 48, from Livingston, said she felt the heckles and the woman being led away for holding an anti-monarchy sign dampened the event for the rest of the crowd.

"We saw the police keeping an eye on things behind us, and we thought something was going to kick off, and it did," she said.

"We just felt disappointed because the eyes of the world are on us at the moment. It's a massive moment in history. We've had the death of the longest-serving monarch we've ever had, we've got the new King being proclaimed, and then we have the heckling at the back and the shouting."

A man was also heard booing loudly during the proclamation near St Giles’ Cathedral in Edinburgh.

Ceremonies are taking place across the United Kingdom as the new monarch takes the throne, triggering protests at multiple places with people calling for an end to the monarchy.

“I feel unable to express an opinion without being branded disrespectful, so therefore I’ve been funneled into complying with the country’s grief,” Aisha, an anti-monarchy activist, was quoted as saying by the Guardian.

“As someone who believes the monarchy is an outdated concept that compromises our democratic right and signifies colonialism, I am suddenly being turned into the bad guy for deciding not to celebrate that aspect of the Queen’s life.

In November 2021, ahead of the queen’s platinum jubilee, an Ipsos poll found that only 60 percent of Britons favor the country remaining a monarchy, down from 76 percent five years ago.

The platinum jubilee celebrations were countered by an international anti-monarchy conference, which raised the slogan, “Make Elizabeth the last.”

Beyond Britain, people in countries falling under the commonwealth, from Canada to Jamaica to New Zealand, have also started calling for an end to centuries-old monarchial rule.

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